By John Miller
You’ve just got to love a Newfie. Often thought of as “gentle giants,” these dogs are massive and powerful, yet smart, helpful, and (we think) totally fun to be around (drool and giant furballs notwithstanding).
If you’re fishing for fun facts about Newfoundlands, we’ve got you covered!
They are named after the North Atlantic island of Newfoundland (part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador) where the breed was originally developed.
There are many theories on the Newfoundland’s origins, – some say they were left by the Vikings in 100 A.D., some say that Newfies are crosses between Tibetan Mastiffs and the extinct Black American Wolf, and the third theory is that the Newfie is a mix of many European breeds.
They share a lineage with modern retrievers. In fact, the divergence can be seen in the distinction between the Greater Newfoundlands (Newfies) and Lesser Newfoundlands or St John’s Water Dog (Labrador retrievers).
Generally around 28 inches tall and 120-150 pounds, they are one of the sturdier dog breeds. Their average lifespan is 8-10 years.
The breed was almost wiped out in the 1780s when Canadian government-imposed restrictions mandated that families pay taxes on their pets.
Newfie genes saved the St Bernard breed in the 19th century. Around 1860, the St. Bernards at the hospice in Switzerland were almost wiped out by distemper. Since the dogs look similar, the monks imported some Newfoundlands to help rebuild the breed.
They were used by fishermen as water rescue dogs. They are extremely courageous, which is one of many reasons they make good rescue dogs.
One of the hallmarks of the breed is an overall sweet nature and gentle temperament.
They have webbed feet. (That’s right, just like a hairy amphibian!)
Their swimming style is less like the traditional doggy paddle and more like a breast stroke.
They have a double coat which keeps them warm in freezing temperatures. The top coat is oily and water repellant, while the undercoat is soft and insulating.
Newfie tails are very muscular and used as a rudder while swimming.
The American Kennel Club lists acceptable Newfie coat colors as black, brown, gray, and black-and-white, while the Canadian Kennel Club says the coat can only be black or black-and-white.
Sir Edwin Landseer liked Newfoundlands so much that he included them in his paintings. The black and white Newfoundlands were named “Landseer” in his honor.
Their big coat needs a LOT of brushing.
Their strong jaws, big heads, and sturdy frame make them able to pull carts and other heavy objects, as well as drag people, tow lines, and fishing nets through the water.
They’re very athletic (and they can really pack on the pounds if overfed), so they need exercise daily. Swimming is their ideal exercise, because it allows them to cool off and burn calories. They love swimming in cold water, even in the winter.
In 1995, a 10-month-old Newfoundland named Boo rescued a man from drowning without any training or direction to do so.
In 1828, a Newfie named Hairy Man helped save over 160 Irish immigrants from the wreck of the brig Despatch, which ran aground near Isle aux Morts.
Nana, the sweet dog nanny from Peter Pan, was a Newfoundland.
Lewis and Clark’s dog was a Newfoundland named Seaman.
A Newfoundland named Napoleon the Wonder Dog co-starred with baboons in Van Hare’s “Magic Circus” in Victorian London.
Ulysses S. Grant had a Newfoundland named Faithful.
Lord Byron left a burial plot bigger than his own for his Newfoundland, Boatswain. Here is the epitaph on Boatswain’s grave:
We’ll leave you with this fun video of 182-pound Roscoe having a good roll on the ice!
John is an Atlanta native who grew up with four dogs in his family. He is currently finishing his BA at Georgia State University. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and watching movies.